How to (and Why to) Make Room for Generation Z in the Workplace

Generation Z

What Makes Someone Part of Generation Z?

The definition of ‘Generation Z’ is as controversial as that of ‘Millennial,’ with no consensus on what defines each of these groups and what it means to be included in such. In broad terms, Generation Z includes people who were born between the mid-1990s and early-2000s. We won’t know for decades where history will ultimately draw the dividing line between being a Millennial, Gen Z, and the succeeding generation, and there will no doubt be a lot of overlap.

At the time of writing, 25% of the U.S. population is Generation Z and they are making their way into the workforce in droves. By the end of the decade, around 36% of the workforce will be from Generation Z.

What Makes Generation Z Different?

Much changed in the world between the previous generation and Gen Z. 

  • The use of technology has skyrocketed. 
  • Personal privacy is an entirely different concept in the post-social media world.
  • Mainstream culture has fractured, being replaced by personalized content and thousands of diverse platforms and micro-communities.
  • Traditional hallmarks of adulthood have changed, with marriage, parenthood, and college completion often delayed.
  • The pathways to future financial security are less concrete.

What to Expect from Gen Z

Making assumptions based on age is a mistake; every employee regardless of age will bring different things to the table. A company functions best when it can recognize the diversity of its workforce makeup and find ways to improve teamwork.

Sociologists do have some insights into what members of Generation Z are more likely to be like that we can consider as generalizations. 

The Great Recession between 2007 and 2011 hit during Generation Z’s formative years and has taught them to be independent in their career and not expect to stay at one company for too long.

Generation Z is concerned about the growing income gap. Despite being the best-educated generation to date, Gen Z has increased stress about their career and how they will provide for their future family.

Generation Z is the first generation to have no memory of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S., an event which greatly influenced the attitudes and behaviors of the preceding generations. However, they are a generation that has never had memories of a time where the U.S. was not at war with ‘global terrorism’, perhaps one reason that Generation Z reports higher levels of insecurity and unsettlement. This is compounded by the influence of the Great Recession mentioned above, and the prolonged effect this recession has had on their parents’ careers and lives.

For these reasons and others, Gen Z has been shown to be more risk-averse than previous generations. Gen Z teenagers are more sensible than their Millennial and Gen X counterparts were at that age, being less likely to try alcohol or drugs, less likely to get pregnant, and much more likely to graduate high school. Almost two times as many Gen Z teenagers attend church than previous generations did.

How to Manage a Changing Workplace

Suggestions on how to manage the influx of Gen Z employees are flooding in from all corners. 

Gen Z has overwhelmingly stated that having a sense of purpose in their work is highly important to the job they choose. A Gen Z employee will feel most comfortable when they know how their position fits into the bigger picture and why their work is important. 

Regular, useful feedback on how they are performing will mirror the types of feedback they have been used to receiving through social media. Of course, every person is different, so some will prefer more regular feedback than others will.

On the other hand, Gen Z has grown up learning how to do things themselves through watching YouTube videos or online tutorials. Avoid micromanaging a Gen Z employee, instead offering coaching that inspires them to unlock their own potential. Gen Zs value their independence, so the traditional top-down management structure will need to be tweaked to retain the best young talent.

Gen Z employees are more likely to expect a flexible workplace. Remote work, flexible hours, and duties that vary attract Gen Z to positions. 

Gen Z is also much more likely to be interested in a company with a genuine social mission. Gen Z believes it is a generation primed to change the world for the better, and working for a company with a strong social mission that embraces diversity and inclusion is important to this new generation. 

Though the workplace will gradually change, it could pay to consider this advice on how best to engage with this new type of employee.

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